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As the PlayStation 5’s launch date draws closer, we’re learning more details about the system and its expected feature set. A new patent granted to Sony, published on October 3, suggests that the firm is working on a follow-up to the PlayStation VR system. Sony has said very little about how VR fits into its long-term plans for the PS5, but this patent suggests the firm is working on some upgrades.
One thing we do know about the PSVR is that the existing rig will work with the new platform. Keeping backward compatibility with the existing PSVR is a smart move on Sony’s part. It allows gamers who invested in virtual reality to preserve the value of that initial investment and continue to build game libraries on the PS5. At the same time, the PSVR isn’t as nice as devices like the first-generation Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, to say nothing of the higher-resolution headsets that have come out since. It made sense to keep PSVR limited to 960×1080 per eye, rather than the higher 1080×1200 resolution of the Oculus Rift — the PS4 didn’t have the GPU horsepower required to drive higher-end experiences. The PS5, however, very much will.
Overall, the headset described in this patent is very similar to the PSVR already. It has two outward-facing cameras on the front of the headset and can mount one on the back for additional visibility, with more tracking LEDs mounted across the device. There’s also a described option to include a camera on a PlayStation Move-like controller as well. Sony’s patent describes a number of different ways that VR can be implemented in this context, but it doesn’t look like the company is contemplating retiring support for the PlayStation Eye camera, at least not yet.
The patent describes a VR system that’s capable of operating with or without a cable attached to the console, possibly by using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi for wireless support. There’s also mention of using the front-mounted AR cameras to create a transparent viewing area. The Oculus Quest has a built-in feature that shows the room around you if you step out of the “Guardian” area you’ve defined for play. There are four corner-mounted cameras on the headset that provide this capability, but Sony’s patent only describes two front-mounted cameras.
All Eyes on Sony
Sony’s plans for the PS5 will have a significant impact on VR gaming and, by extension, on the PC VR space as well. According to Strategy Analytics, Sony had the largest share of the VR market in 2018:
Strategy Analytics also notes that while VR sales volume fell off a cliff in 2018, VR sales revenue barely budged. The widespread retirement of cheap headsets like Google Cardboard or Gear VR from Samsung meant that unit sales fell by more than 50 percent, from 31M units to 15M units. Revenue, however, only dropped from $1.9B to $1.8B.
The long-term prognosis for VR is good, with expected uptake in numerous fields, including healthcare. Whether VR will take off specifically in the consumer sector for gaming is still uncertain, but we’re seeing multiple companies make the right moves to grow the community as a whole. Oculus has announced that the Quest will be capable of serving as an attached headset once new software becomes available, and Sony will extend PSVR support into the PS5 generation. It’s important not to split the VR market more than is necessary to encourage developers to build VR titles in the first place, so decisions like this are a step in the right direction of building a sustainable gaming ecosystem around the idea.
While this patent contains general concepts for a potential future PSVR 2, it doesn’t actually give any specific details on lens resolution or other breakout features. We would expect Sony to improve these capabilities as well given the substantially improved rendering capability of the PS5 and the higher-end Ryzen CPUs powering the platform. Hat-tip to LetsGoDigital, which found the initial PSVR patent.